Aunt Nancy and Her Stories, Corn Productions, at the Cornservatory. Storytelling is often a child's entree into the magic of theater. Michelle Renee Thompson's clever matinee piece wraps a modern framework around the Ananse myths of West Africa and other folktales, stories that convey moral truths through the follies of talking animals.
Ten-year-old Meenah (Angie Ruiz) is forced to give up her bedroom and move in with her little brother (Jarrett Hall) when Aunt Nancy (Thompson herself) comes to stay with the family. While at first Meenah resents the strange, exotic woman whose arrival changes her life, eventually she's lured into Aunt Nancy's abundantly fanciful world, in the process learning about the importance of family, of treating people with respect, and of not judging by appearances. This new wisdom prepares her to face family life more maturely and to compete in the town's championship game of "dog tag"--a soccerlike sport played with teams of children and dogs.
The cute, simple story and songs make this a worthy choice for kids in the Barney demographic. The actors take on multiple human and animal characters with ease and humor (especially Patrick Brooks as Jamal, Meenah's frisky talking dog). Even the younger cast members show great facility in interacting with their young audience. The production's energy and sensible hour-long running time ensure that even smaller children will stay riveted. More important, the mythical content offers more substance than silliness.